Infamous drug lord Rafael Caro Quintero, convicted of murdering a US DEA agent in 1985, was arrested on Friday nearly a decade after leaving a Mexican prison and returning to dealing drugs, a confirmed a Mexican Navy official.
The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, agreed to confirm the action to The Associated Press if not named by name. No other details of the capture were immediately available.
The United States had offered a $20 million reward to help find Caro Quintero, who was arrested in a special operation by Mexican Marines with the Secretary of the Navy, called SEMAR. The brutal murder marked a low point in US-Mexico relations.
Caro Quintero had remained on the United States Drug Enforcement Administration’s most wanted list for years for various crimes, including drug trafficking and orchestrating the kidnapping and murder of Special Agent Enrique “Kiki” Camarena. The United States closed the Mexican border for several days until public pressure inside Mexico led the cartel to return the agent’s body to US authorities.
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“Kiki Camarena has been a North Star for DEA agents since her murder and torture,” Chris Evans, who retired last year after overseeing DEA agents around the world, said Friday at the Louisville Courier-Journal, which is part of the USA TODAY Network. “His sacrifice has never been forgotten and runs in the blood of the agency.”
The kidnapping is depicted in the Netflix TV series “Narcos”, season 4.
Quintero had served 28 years of a 40-year prison sentence when a Mexican court ordered his release on Aug. 9, 2013, on procedural grounds, according to the DEA. He is a fugitive from the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California on murder, kidnapping, and other criminal charges.
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Caro Quintero was a major supplier of heroin, cocaine and marijuana to the United States in the late 1970s.
Prior to Camarena’s death, DEA units in Mexico destroyed millions of dollars worth of marijuana grown on farms for the cartel in Guadalajara, named after the city of Jalisco, a state in western Mexico.
Camarena served in the US Marine Corps and was a 10-year veteran of the DEA. Gunmen positioned themselves in the streets surrounding his office at the U.S. consulate in Guadalajara on February 7, 1985, and were ready to block the young federal agent if he tried to escape.
The men, who worked for one of Mexico’s most powerful drug cartels, forced Camarena into their car and drove him to a cramped guesthouse nearby, where he was beaten, burned and finally killed.
Over the decades, even agents who have never met Camarena have expressed the importance of bringing Quintero to justice in the United States, and a bust of the 37-year-old agent remains on display at the US Embassy. in Guadalajara.
Caro Quintero, the former head of the Guadalajara Cartel, had since returned to drug trafficking and sparked bloody turf battles in Mexico’s northern border state of Sonora.
In Sonora, one of the states hardest hit by Caro Quintero’s efforts to reclaim territory, there was hope that his arrest might help.
“I believe that in Sonora, in general, there could be calm, and yes, relief for us, because I believe the disappearances will decrease,” said Cecilia Duarte, an activist with a team of volunteer researchers. in Sonora who search for the clandestine graves. of the missing. Some activists were threatened and even killed in Sonora amid Caro Quintero’s turf wars with “El Chapo’s” sons.
But, Duarte told the AP, Caro Quintero “is only part (of the conflict), the conflict does not end.”
Contributor: Brad Heath, USA TODAY; The Associated Press